Nate Silver offers a fine illustration of how absurd political blogging can become. Writing in a post about the future of Rick Santorum and after dismissing various offices in Pennsylvania, he turns to 2016:
If Mr. Romney loses to Mr. Obama, then Mr. Santorum will be mentioned as a front-runner for the 2016 nomination. Mr. Santorum was always playing catch-up in this year’s campaign, having raised little money early on. With more cash, a deeper and more experienced staff, and more support from Republican Party officials, he could have more staying power. He’ll also have more experience under his belt.
It is questionable, however, whether Mr. Santorum can expect the competition in 2016 or 2020 to be as soft as it was this year, with big names like Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and perhaps others looming on the horizon, and as the Republicans who were elected to office in the 2010 wave begin to mature as politicians. Whomever Mr. Romney selects as his vice presidential candidate will also have a good shot at future Republican nominations. Finishing second in a strong field of candidates, as John McCain did in the Republican race of 2000, may be an indication of future success, but it is less of a credential when the competition is middling and some of Mr. Santorum’s support came by virtue of being an “anti-Romney” candidate.
Now, in the first place his analysis of McCain emerging from a strong field is dubious. The three other candidates that made it to the New Hampshire Primary were three people who never held political office (Gary Bauer, Alan Keyes, and Steve Forbes.) The only “strong candidates” in that field were Bush and McCain. True, there were stronger announced candidates who dropped out before in the Summer of 2011and early Fall such as Elizabeth Dole, Dan Quayle, and John Kasich, but I’d contend the candidates who made it to New Hampshire in 2012 represented a far more potent and compelling field.
Secondly, is the warning that a hypothetical Santorum 2016 run is threatened by the potential candidacies of Rubio, Ryan, etc. Silver is relatively circumspect compared to other blogger such as the Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis who says Santorum would face a stronger field and lists the usual suspects.
This sort of analysis is comparable, in Baseball terms, to trying to predict the outcome of a potential Division Series between the Pirates and Braves three years from now based on who is the top prospect on their AA team at the moment. I remember when Marc Sanford was a popular name in this sort of talk. I read numerous stories of how Tim Pawlenty was the man to watch in 2012. How exactly did that work out again?
Most 2012 potential candidates never ran (Haley Barbour, Ryan, Bobby Jindal) or ran poorly (Perry and Pawlenty). and none came close to being the last challenger standing. I will predict that the vast majority of “new faces” cited by bloggers will not appear on a single primary ballot in 2016, in the even Romney loses.
In addition, a Santorum or a Mike Huckabee for that matter would be far more likely to succeed than any of them except for Bush for three reasons.
First, Republicans like known quantities. While Democrats will take a chance on an Arkansas or a guy who is less than four years out of the Illinois States Senate, Republicans look for known quantities as illustrated by the “next in line phenomena.” Republicans like candidates they know, rather than fresh faces. Bloggers may feel otherwise as it can be tiring writing about the same candidate week after week and year after year.
Second, these former candidates know what the campaign is like and know exactly what to expect, making them better prepared than the first time around.
Third, Republicans voters like them after they’ve been through a campaign. Most of these potential candidates look good primarily because they’ve yet to exposed to vetting and the heat of the primary campaign. People like Bobby Jindal and Paul Ryan look good because no one has picked their lives apart, no one is funding millions of dollars to fling intra-party dirt at them. Most who get the full treatment will fall apart long before the voting starts.
Santorum and Huckabee are fighters and they are survivors. While its absurd to even be talking about 2016 (and I have my own doubts about Santorum running in 2016) , if bloggers are going to do it, they had better give more credit to the survivors than they do to people who are (at best) wannabes.